Photo Essay Examples, Tips, Hits, Outline, and 25 Topics

So, you received a photo essay assignment and aren´t sure where to begin? No worries! We are here with examples and even some topics that are sure to be a big hit. In most cases, photo essays are not word-heavy but more concept-heavy.

You must choose your words wisely as you let the pics do the talking. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and with a visual assignment, you get to prove that! Due to their ability to increase emotions and deliver a strong, lasting image to its viewers, the image-related homework has grown in popularity not only among journalists but around college campuses as well.

What is a Photo Essay?

So, you´re probably thinking, what is a photo essay? We´re glad you asked! The photo essay definition is not one that is easy to come by due to the variations in style. Its most basic definition is that of a set or series of photographs linked together to evoke the intended emotions in the viewers. These images are often very impactful and produce feelings at the first glance.

The variation not only comes from the type of pictures and the order in which you choose to place them but also in the use of words accompanying the visual data. It is possible to let only the images tell the story or choose wisely structured statements that will only add to the impact of your pictures. Check out some of our top tips to rock your essay and some further advice on making it a hit.

Top Tips.

  • Choose impactful images that truly convey the message you are going for. Remember the pics are the star here, and they need to be the center of all the attention.
  • When you do use words, make sure that they are congruent with the images and keep them simple. As stated earlier, it´s not what you say, but it´s how you word it that matters.
  • Organize your shots in a way where they tell the story before adding any words. In this way, you keep the focus on the images and only use the words to make an additional emphasis.

Make a Hit.

  • Choose a universally important topic. In this way, you´ll find ideally suiting images and will make a substantial impact on your readers.
  • Choose pics that make you feel something. You are the creator of this masterpiece and the first one to feel the kind of impact the shots have.
  • After you find a suitable image, take a second and write down everything coming to mind when you see it. In this way, you can narrow down the tone of your assignment and be sure to make your point clear and accurate.

Photo Essays Outline Example

Unfortunately, assignments based on images are quite a rare type of written assignment for students of non-art faculties, which is a shame. It seems a lot more fun than just pumping out words and turning in some boring essay! But is it wise to think of a photo paper as only a series of images? Not exactly, as this paper is also an academic assignment that has to meet certain academic standards. There is a specific outline to follow to make your home task make a point. Here is an outline example.

  • The lead image. Perhaps the most essential part of your essay. The lead pic not only introduces your topic but also engages your readers. Your goal here is to set the theme and context of your paper and to ignite an emotional connection through the image.
  • Informative image. After creating the initial impact, you need to give the reader a bit more information. Think of this as your introduction, where you inform the readers of the overall structure of your essay.
  • In-depth shots. Here you get more specific. Make sure that these pics are genuinely focused on the topic you are speaking about. The idea here is to inform the readers further and give them all the intended information. Think of this part as the body of your essay.
  • The clincher. This image is the last thing that your reader is going to see; therefore, it is essential to make it the most powerful, leaving the strongest impression on the reader, and matching the message you are trying to convey. So, make it a good one!

Great Photo Essay Ideas for Topics

Like we said before, try to choose photo essay themes that are universally impactful or interesting. In this way, people will not want to look away from your work of art. You asked, and we delivered – here is a short list of 25 topics that will get you that standing ovation. You´re welcome!

  1. Transforming power of makeup.
  2. Post-war cities.
  3. Abandoned towns.
  4. Impacts of global warming.
  5. Street art.
  6. People of the town.
  7. Natural disasters before and after.
  8. The epidemic of plastic.
  9. The fight for food.
  10. Cultures throughout the world.
  11. Religion.
  12. Architecture.
  13. Renewable energy.
  14. Trends.
  15. Advertising.
  16. Neighbors.
  17. A true look into hospitals.
  18. Campuses after mass shootings.
  19. Biography: you or someone important to you.
  20. Stages of pregnancy.
  21. Fashion.
  22. Relationships.
  23. Christmas throughout the world.
  24. Tattoos.
  25. College life.

Take a moment and choose some of your favorite. Then think about the types of images you could find over that topic. It can get the wheels in your brain, turning over how to structure your photo essay. These topics are a bit general and host a wide range of possibilities that are sure to get your message across.

Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Photo Essay

Now that you know what a photo essay is and have a fantastic list of topics for inspiration let’s consider some do´s and don´ts when it comes to the actual writing process. After reading this, you’ll surely excel in the skill of such assignment’s creation, making your peers envy and ask you how to make a photo essay.


  • Choose a topic and stick to that topic. Make sure that all of your images genuinely tell a story and convey the meaning and message you are going for.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Use words and statements that add to the emotion or overall tone of your topic.
  • Make sure that your pics follow some outline or flow. If it helps, try and practice your presentation with only images and see if it makes sense on its own. Then you can add words to increase the effect.


  • Don’t choose too many impactful pics as you want your “clincher” to have the strongest, lasting effect.
  • Never explain the image in detail. Understandably, you may want to use words that add to the overall message you are trying to convey, but let the photo speak for itself. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
  • Don’t slop pics together. Remember this is not a show and tell of your vacation where the order doesn´t matter. Make these images follow some logical order. The clearer your message is without words, the more emotions you´ll evoke within your viewers.

In case you find yourself in a writer’s block and need some boost of inspiration, here are some tips to use:

  1. Take a walk: got a favorite part of town or a favorite park? Go for a walk and see if inspiration strikes.
  2. Get with the times: It may sound old school but pick up a newspaper or magazine for some inspiration. They do a fantastic job of using images that correspond with the story and message they are trying to convey. Most of the time, the image is more powerful than the words.
  3. Pump up the volume: Music has a way of bringing out thoughts and emotions. We know you have a favorite group or artist. So put your headphones in and turn it up, you´ll feel free, inspired, and relieved after!

Need Help with Photo Essays?

There are some fantastic resources when it comes to photo essay examples for students like you. Don´t be afraid to take advantage of free useful resources available on the Internet. Here you can find beautiful examples on every topic that will get your mind running with inspiration. But be cautious about copyright laws when it comes to using photos. If possible, try to use your shots for an added emotional effect. If you´re having trouble, also don´t hesitate to ask your professors or peers for advice.

It’s also OK to utilize some external help for the completion of a lovely image composition, which you may find here, in our company. We know that just like with traditional essays, the dreadful writer’s block is real for photo work as well. When inspiration isn´t striking, follow some of the tips we enumerated above or hire our professionals for assistance.

Our expert writers have many years of hands-on experience in dealing with assignments of all kinds, so they are always ready to help you create a photo assignment that will leave your professors and peers speechless. We hope that some of the tips and tricks have left you in the mood to brainstorm and given you some insight into the popular new form of writing, the photo essay. But even if they haven’t – we are here to provide you with a helping hand.

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Margaret Vizenor
Sociology & Literature
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